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Lawyer who defrauded clients of $890k jailed

Margaret Rimmer claimed her medication turned her into a compulsive gambler. Picture: Glenn Barnes
Margaret Rimmer claimed her medication turned her into a compulsive gambler. Picture: Glenn Barnes

BREAKING: For 40 years, Margaret Faith Rimmer was a highly respected member of the legal profession.

Today, she was sentenced to jail by it.

The prominent Maleny lawyer pleaded guilty in Maroochydore District Court to four charges of fraud, involving taking $890,000 from her mostly-elderly clients' trust accounts.

Central to the defence argument was that a drug, Sifrol, prescribed by her GP to treat her "restless leg syndrome" in 2008, contributed to her gambling addiction.

Sifrol, the court heard, has known side-effects including compulsive behaviour.

Elegantly dressed, 65-year-old Rimmer sat calmly, occasionally wiping away tears, as the details or her crime and an appropriate sentence were discussed.

She was supported in court by some of her 10 siblings and her two daughters.

Prosecutor Greg Cummings highlighted how Rimmer, a person of "impeccable character and in a position of trust" defrauded her clients of more than $890,000 in four different offences.

She has paid $200,000 back, but $690,000 "remained outstanding".

One of the victims was a 91-year-old "very vulnerable" woman who had $405,000 misappropriated from her account.

More than $370,000 was yet to be paid back.

Rimmer, who had an "unblemished" criminal record had tried to hide some of her fraud by taking money from one victim's account to pay another.

But once it had all unravelled, she entered an "early guilty plea" which eased the severity of her sentence.

That she had surrendered her practice certificate in 2016 also was in her favour.

Rimmer was prescribed Sifrol to treat a restless leg syndrome in 2008.

Before taking this drug, the court heard Rimmer had never had a gambling problem.

A psychiatrists report tendered to the court argued it was possible Sifrol, combined with Rimmer's depression from a range of issues, had contributed to her not being aware of her actions.

"A known side-effect of Sifrol is that it can cause compulsive behaviour," Ms Rimmer's defence argued.

"Her gambling stopped when the drug was discontinued".

In passing sentence, Judge Richard Jones, said the medication Sifrol had a "material contribution to the offending".

But he argued she "still knew what she was doing as she tried to cover the dishonesty up".

In taking into account Rimmer's age, her medical conditions and the family support she had, he gave her a five year sentence, which would be suspended after serving 20 months.

This meant Rimmer could be free on October 6, 2018.
 

EARLIER: A PROMINENT Sunshine Coast lawyer is being sentenced for fraud.

Margaret Faith Rimmer, who practised in Maleny and Mooloolaba, has pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud on the Maroochydore District Court.

Details of Ms Rimmer's fraud, which involved taking more than $890,000 from her clients trust accounts are being revealed.

One client was 91 years old.

A smartly dressed Ms Rimmer is sitting quietly in the dock while the charges and are being read.

The case continues.

Topics:  crime editors picks margaret faith rimmer maroochydore district court


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